Local News

Digital video in school buses is still ongoing

SEBRING — When was the last time you used a VCR or bought a VHS tape?

When the 2014-15 school year starts in one week, outdated VHS tape recording technology will be in use every school day on about half of the School Board of Highlands County’s school buses.

Transportation Director David Solomon realizes that and wants to get rid of the old cameras.

“We want to get rid of those old VHS cameras; that’s our project this year,” he said. “We know we won’t be able to get rid of all of them, but at least on our ‘route buses’ we would like to get rid of those old cameras.”

Solomon said the district needs about 50 digital cameras.

Currently, the district has 51 digital cameras and 101 routes, he said.

The district purchased about 15 digital cameras last year and they will try to buy 18 this year and get them installed in buses, Solomon said.

The district has 10 older buses, from 1996 - 1998, which are used infrequently for back-up purposes and don’t have any security cameras, he said. When digital cameras are installed in the route buses, the VHS tape video cameras that are removed will be installed in these back-up buses.

Have there been any times when the bus cameras have helped the school district review an incident?

“We have had a couple of incidents where we have pulled the cameras and the tapes were all chewed up, you know, the old VHS tapes,” Solomon said. “That’s the reason why we are replacing them; they aren’t reliable anymore.”

It’s not only difficult to get tapes for the VHS cameras but the heat and the old cameras chew up the tapes, he added. “We kind of lose our credibility when stuff like that happens.”

It appears some of our neighboring school districts are ahead of us in this technology.

Okeechobee County School District Transportation Supervisor Louise Piper said the district has digital video cameras in all of its buses; 49 school buses run daily routes and there are 71 buses in the fleet.

Around 2002, the district started ordering new buses with digital cameras, she said. The district purchases five to six buses each year so the conversion from tape to digital cameras was complete around 2010.

Has the video helped in any incidents?

It came handy when a women, who drove underneath the back of a school bus, claimed the bus did not stop at a railroad track and did not activate its warning systems, Piper said.

Along with being digital, the monitoring system showed on a GPS map where the bus was, when it put its brakes on, when it put its stop arm out and how long it had stopped at the railroad crossing before the woman drove up underneath the back end, she said.

The bus driver had stopped for about a minute and a half, waiting for the students to be quiet and then looked down both sides of the track.

The system includes audio recording, Piper said. “You could hear the kids say, ‘Oh my gosh driver, driver,’” she said.

Each bus has three video cameras, Piper noted.

“We have one that shows a better view of the back of the bus and one that shows the driver so that we can prove to the parent that the driver did not do something that the parent is accusing them of, and then we have one that shows the front of the bus,” she said.

Glades County School District Transportation Supervisor Doug Manke said all the district’s buses are equipped with digital surveillance systems.

The district has 11 bus routes, he said. Three buses have an older system with one camera and the other buses have two-camera systems.


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